I am in deepest France- La France Profonde- although my journey here was rather hampered by the usual French strike- in this case Air Traffic Controllers. I was only delayed, but plenty of flights from all over Europe into Toulouse had been cancelled. The ostensible reason for this outbreak of radicalisme was a proposal to raise the retirement age in France to 62. Since the de facto retirement age in the UK is already creeping up towards 67, it is hard to feel much sympathy. As BBC radio was quick to point out a couple of days ago: the French already sleep more, work less hours, have longer holidays, and spend more time eating than any other nation in Europe. You might think that this would be a recipe for health and happiness, but the neuroses of the country remain has angst filled as ever. Also they eat more Macdonalds than the Brits, and to be quite frank the standard fare in a French restaurant is more expensive and far less varied than in the UK- the identikit menus are an exercise in unadventurous boredom.
It is always a shock too to see mediaeval buildings in this country in a state of total disrepair- in the UK, they would have been gussied up to a museum standard, here they rot in genteel and picturesque decay. The recession has had an obvious effect on France- it feels much poorer. even compared to last year, though prices remain steep, especially when considering the devaluation of Sterling over the past couple of years. I notice a far smaller gap between life here and say Poland- this country is certainly not forging ahead.
Then again, another country, the United States, that thinks it is forging ahead is locked in antediluvian scandals. Some idiot who claims to have a direct line to God has decided that burning hundred of copies of the Koran would not be in any way an offensive and stupid thing to do. The fact that so many in the Us are prepared to take this guy seriously suggests that religion rots the brain of too many Americans. The fact they insist on regarding Genesis and demonstrable scientific proof as having equal validity- that the, shall we say allegories, of Genesis are in fact the literal truth and not just a load of made up stuff demonstrates something very unhealthy. Meanwhile the sanctimonious hypocrite masquerading as a preacher in the name of love intends to do something that has started wars in the past. I am not sure that this American activity is much of an improvement on French laziness. In fact the French would probably put this stupid man in a mental hospital, and I can't say that this would be a bad thing.
Meanwhile the Chinese remain on a charge: no laziness and no offensive behaviour to Muslims. The military industrial complex in Beijing has an uber-realist and very hard nosed approach to power. They are now firmly in the driving seat as Europe remains mired in French laziness and the United States continues to be inspired by a demonstrably false religiosity.
Yet the Chinese officer class has embraced a very aggressive nationalism: claiming all of the South China Sea and maximalist territorial claims against India. It is hard not to see this emerging Superpower as being a significant threat to the stability of the international system.
The self indulgence of French radicalism and American religious hypocrisy seem increasingly witless in the face of the aggressive expansionism of the Chinese military. These illusions may have a very short shelf life in the face of the pitiless necessity of facing the rise of authoritarian, undemocratic, unreligious, China.